Make the most of world's best

That trip to a world-famous attraction requires serious planning

If you are visiting Florence in Italy, you have got to see the worldfamous Uffizi Gallery.

But why? Because that is what one does in Florence? Because you feel compelled to post a selfie in front of Botticelli's Birth of Venus?

Those are obviously terrible reasons. We should not go to places because they are world-famous; we should go to fully appreciate the thing that made them worldfamous.

But that requires a thoughtful, well-planned visit. I spoke with those in charge of some of the world's great attractions to glean strategies for making the most of a visit, both substantive improvements and simple beat-the-crowds techniques.

Because, no matter how great the view is from the crown of Lady Liberty, you cannot visit the crown at all without serious planning.

For hard-to-reach monuments, consider a more adventurous alternative route to avoid crowds – walking the steep hill to the Peak viewpoint in Hong Kong or hiking up the rainforest path to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

"On busy days, you're talking about 25,000 people on a small island and 500 a day get to the crown," said Mr Michael Amato, the lead park ranger for the Statue of Liberty National Monument. "Right now, we're sold out until late October, early November."

The ultimate way to avoid crowds is to visit during the off-season and at off-peak times. Mr Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Galleries, suggested: "Have an early lunch and get to the Uffizi something like 1 pm, when the vast majority of people head off to eat."

Timed tickets can often be bought days in advance and are increasingly available at crowded attractions around the world. At the Uffizi, they cost €4 (S$6) extra (boosting admission to €16.50) and take care of waiting in line, if not the crowds. You can buy them at the official Uffizi website,, if you can find it.

Unofficial sites that look official are rampant. If you have trouble finding the official site of any attraction, search for it on a trusted travel site - say, - and follow the links.

Ms Jade McKellar, the director of visitor experiences at the Sydney Opera House, said too many visitors "stop at the selfie". Like many sites, a true visit means dedicating a full day, which a rushed traveller might be loathe to do but should do.

You may want to append a pre-theatre dinner at locavore Australian restaurant Bennelong and an evening performance to a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

Another reason to set aside more time: Visitors skip the less-famous, but equally worthwhile, often beautifully complementary sites nearby.

Ms Susan Greaney, the senior properties historian at English Heritage, which oversees Stonehenge, recommended a trip to the nearby Wiltshire Museum and the Salisbury Museum, local history museums with Stonehenge-relevant exhibitions, each less than a 30-minute drive away, but likely to be missed by anyone on a day tour from London.

Mr Mark Thomas, the western district director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, recommended the New York Power Authority's Niagara Power Vista, a free attraction 10 minutes from Niagara Falls State Park.

Mr Schmidt noted that the copy of Michelangelo's David on the Piazza della Signoria near the Uffizi was indistinguishable to non-experts. Lines to see the real one at the Accademia Gallery can run hours if you do not buy tickets in advance.

"If someone has just three days in Florence, do you want to waste three hours in line when you can see a very faithful copy?" he said.

Some final recommendations: Be an active visitor, engaging guides, rangers or docents and exploring lesser-known corners.

For hard-to-reach monuments, consider a more adventurous alternative route to avoid crowds - walking the steep hill to the Peak viewpoint in Hong Kong or hiking up the rainforest path to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro instead of taking the crowded trams that lead to each.

Of course, you can also simply skip the world-famous attraction. If you are sick of museums by the time you get to Florence, forgo the Uffizi and take advantage of other things Florence has to offer.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Make the most of world's best'. Print Edition | Subscribe